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  • Why vegetable-tanned leather?
  • Pedro Fernandes
  • MaterialsNoise Goods
Why vegetable-tanned leather?

Vegetable-tanned leather being stamped

There are several methods for tanning leather, but not all of them are the right choice for your health or environment. I will first describe two commonly used methods, and then a third one to make the leather we use on Noise Goods products, the vegetable-tanned leather.

Chrome-tanning is the most popular and controversial, due to its widespread use in the fashion industry. It is effective and fast (within a few days) to produce a soft and uniform leather. The raw appearance, before it is dyed and painted, is pale blue in color and with a strong chemical smell that frequently remains in the final product. But the use of chromium salts is harmful to the human and environmental health, it is a carcinogenic, persistent and indestructible chemical. Despite being publicly recognized for these significant downsides, it is still the most used method in the fashion industry. 

Tannery drums.

The tannery drums where the leather usually rests and is washed.

Aldehyde-tanning is advertised as the "chromium-free" method and mainly used in the automotive, clothing and footwear industry, and its raw appearance is very pale, almost white. But the formaldehyde, base chemical in this process, is dangerous, and the toxicity of the resulting leather should be strictly controlled, which does not always happen when the industry is rushing for big, fast results.

 

The Noise Goods' vegetable-tanned leather is proudly obtained near the town of Alcanena, in Santarém, Portugal.

 

Vegetable-tanning is the true "chromium-free" method, and does not have harmful chemicals. It is an old-world, artisanal process that takes advantage from the tannic acids naturally found in some plant species, by using the barks, branches, leaves and even some fruits in some specific techniques. The natural appearance before painted, has a slightly brownish tinge over a beige color, with a natural, woody and earthy smell.

We can see here the raw tone of the vegetable-tanned leather and also how it naturally affects the painted navy color, shifting it slightly to the green hue.

There are some disadvantages in using vegetable-tanned leather including:

  • production time (about two months);
  • high consumption of water, although the result is harmless (contrary to the chrome and aldehyde methods), the use must always be moderate;
  • executed by experienced and hard to find workers, this doubles as an advantage that makes this industry a fair trade one;
  • very high final costs.

But there are also big advantages unsurpassed by any other tanning methods. Vegetable-tanned leather was recently salvaged to provide an alternative material in fashion, but also to make use of its high quality:

  • colors and textures have a more natural and organic look;
  • it is irregular and handmade which can be leveraged for a unique and genuine aesthetic;
  • high durability and strength, being even far more efficient than the majority of the synthetic materials;
  • neutral effect on user's health;
  • can last an entire lifetime and/or is bio-degradable when it ceases to be used/maintained;
  • remarkable and sought-after aging qualities, like the "caramelization" of the color, a unique patina acquired with the use;
  • reusability of the final product and in some cases of the leather;
  • created by craftsmen with a historic and valuable knowledge;
  • it can only be obtained from cattle that carried a good life, to get a good, strong leather, and it is always a sub-product of the meat industry;
  • values a slower life and an eco-sustainable industry;
  • revitalizes the local society and general culture.

Comparison between an old and a new Coin Wallet

Comparison between a Coin Wallet with one and a half years of use (an old model), and a brand new one (current model). Both made from the same leather.

So why choose vegetable-tanned leather goods? Because you will be doing a responsible choice in the market's offer. Reading this and other info on consumerism makes you informed about what you are buying. In this case, a product that will last a lifetime will render the whole tanning process as useful and efficient. As long as you use and maintain your vegetable-tanned leather product, you consume less and will be diminishing your footprint on the environment. You will be acquiring a natural canvas to record your life experiences.

The Noise Goods vegetable-tanned leather is proudly obtained near the town of Alcanena, in Santarém, Portugal. It is a recognized region for its agriculture, equitation, Roman and Moorish heritages in art, and for its famous Iberian leather. This noble material and this great culture inspire us. Each item carries history and this unique rustic feel, essential for a singular, aware, but above all else, an intelligent style.

This is not over! You will get the chance to read more about this, because we feel that your support and curiosity needs to be rewarded. So stay tuned for more blog posts or for our news on the social networks.

Thank you & stay close!

  • Pedro Fernandes
  • MaterialsNoise Goods